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Beyond the briefcase: The power of inclusive career pathing

Throughout International Women’s Month, we’re sharing a new blog each Monday showcasing the careers and accomplishments of women at PI.

Susan Thibeault is The Predictive Index’s inventory fulfillment specialist. As she nears five years with the organization, Susan was also recently promoted to Fulfillment Manager. Outside of PI, she serves as VP of the board for her town’s youth lacrosse organization.

While everyone’s talent optimization journey is unique, Susan’s path to her role at PI is particularly extraordinary. She was kind enough to share that story, and impart some learnings she’s gained over time.

A retail background

For much of her career, Susan wasn’t in tech at all. She began her journey at Walmart, at the age of 16. After three years in various roles, she became manager of her own department. “Taking that supervisor role, that was the best opportunity for me to grow,” she said.

Susan got married, moved around the country for a period of time, and then returned home. She spent another 10 years with Walmart before leaving again, this time for good. “When I left, it was for my family. I took a couple of months just to be a mom.”

The mother of three kids, Susan had a lot to juggle. In addition to parenting, she was working part-time on a bachelor’s degree. She devoted the rest of her time to shifts at a local Lowe’s. But she was always looking for that next opportunity.

“I think I filled out a thousand job applications. I was always told I didn’t have the right experience because I never interned anywhere. But what I lacked in internship experience, I had in real-life experience.”

Finding her calling

In 2008, Walmart was sued by the Environmental Protection Agency. The lawsuit had a massive impact on the organization, creating invaluable learning opportunities for managers like Susan. “I jumped in and adapted where I needed to. And there were some people who were just unwilling to do that.”

Fast-forward to 2016, and it was that same drive to learn and adapt that led Susan to PI. “I had never worked anywhere like PI before—very open, very friendly. I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”

Coming from a retail background, the jump to tech could feel daunting. For Susan, having that opportunity—being seen as a person, not just a resume—meant a lot. 

“For other jobs, I came off as being a candidate with no real experience. PI was really the first place that looked beyond that briefcase.”

Susan’s journey within PI

When Susan onboarded with PI, she inherited an inventory fulfillment role that was only growing in importance. It involved many moving parts, from vendor relations and backend systems, to front-of-house work supporting our PI Partner network.

By the end of her training, Susan was shipping 800 kits of materials a month to clients and partners. By 2019, that output skyrocketed to 2,000. Not only was she behind the scenes supporting that volume, but she was taking an active role in driving continued growth.

“I was able to have my voice heard. That was something I never really had before. The word career, that wasn’t a part of my vocabulary—it was always job.”

As her responsibilities grew, Susan quickly learned to delegate. For some, that ability may come naturally, but for an Operator—a Reference Profile that’s highly collaborative—it requires a great deal of self-awareness. Susan embraced the challenge, allowing her to take on new projects at PI.

Adapting to the pandemic

One of Susan’s contributions was borne of sheer necessity. COVID-19 radically disrupted not just our work lives at PI, but also our workshops and group learning sessions. “Everything stopped,” Susan explained. “We stopped shipping. People were working from home.”

In the absence of in-person learning, Susan wanted to ensure clients and partners were still supported. She streamlined the kitting and order processes, making it as easy as possible for them to get the materials they needed. And she insisted these materials be shipped right to their doors. “Not everybody can learn digitally. We need to make it tangible for them.”

OPTIMA is another area where Susan’s flexing her chops. In 2019, she helped coordinate our Partner Day, supplying learning materials for consultants flying in from around the world. For 2021, her focus is to enable that same learning experience in a virtual environment.

As Susan’s role at PI grows, it continues to empower her, her family, and how she views her career. “My husband took a job with a pay cut so I could focus more on my job and he could be home with the kids. We’re a team.”

Talent optimization - head, heart, briefcase

Reflecting on her career so far

Susan’s thrilled about her new role. As she reflects on her career journey, she says that initial opportunity with PI made all the difference. “It’s important to know those opportunities are available. It makes it easier to apply and have faith that you’re going to get somewhere.”

Having worked in such different industries, Susan has plenty of experiences to look back on. Good, challenging, or otherwise, they’ve all contributed to the person she is today. “They’re just totally different experiences. I would never trade one for the other.”

She continued, “Working for one of the world’s largest employers, you could have an opinion all day, but you can’t influence that change. There’s no way to, because it’s so hard to get to the top.”

As for what sets PI apart from other organizations, Susan says it’s a mix of energy, inclusion, and teamwork. 

“It’s a super collaborative place. And I love that, because being able to influence even a little change through collaboration, that’s huge.”

Congratulations, Susan. Here’s to your continued success!


Interested in exploring a career at PI? Visit our careers page.

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Erin heads up content marketing at PI. Her claim to fame? She's the only Erin Balsa on LinkedIn.

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